Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Slate

September 12, 2012

Slate: Don't ban Big Gulps

Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to ban the sale of 32-ounce sodas has hit up against some serious negative public opinion of late. First there was the Million Big Gulp March, in which a sprinkling of protestors showed up to protect the right to buy supersized beverages. More problematically for the mayor, a New York Times poll found that 60 percent of New Yorkers oppose the ban. The Times' quote from Queens resident Bob Barocas bluntly summed up the opposition to the ban: "This is like the nanny state going off the wall."

No one likes to be told what to do. And if the city is banning supersized soda, some fear that it won't be long before the government will be forcing broccoli down our gullets. Maybe it's time to revisit a gentler approach to nudging New Yorkers to eat and drink more healthily by taxing sugar, fat, and other foods that help make America the fattest nation on earth. Boosting prices on unhealthy food is also fraught with controversy, in large part because poor people eat a lot of the junk food that would be targeted with the new taxes. Much prior work has found that food and beverage purchases_including those by low-income shoppers_are surprisingly insensitive to changes in prices; consumers buy what they want to buy anyway. If this is the case, then fat and sugar taxes will further impoverish the poor without making them any skinnier.

But new evidence suggests that this concern may be overstated. A trio of marketing professors have shown that in places where a gallon of whole milk is 40 or 50 cents more expensive than skim, low-income shoppers are twice as likely to buy the lower-calorie milk. If consumers react similarly to price increases for sugary sodas and other unhealthy food options, simple economic incentives may help make low income Americans healthier, and without having to ban any Big Gulps.

Text Only
Slate
  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 16, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Boston doctors can now prescribe you a bike

    The City of Boston this week is rolling out a new program that's whimsically known as "Prescribe-a-Bike." Part medicine, part welfare, the initiative allows doctors at Boston Medical Center to write "prescriptions" for low-income patients to get yearlong memberships to Hubway, the city's bike-share system, for only $5.

    April 11, 2014

  • A man with amnesia taught us how memories become personal

    Although not as celebrated as the late American amnesiac H.M., for my money K.C. taught us more important and poignant things about how memory works. He showed how we make memories personal and personally meaningful. He also had a heck of a life story.

    April 7, 2014

  • Investing more money in tornado research would be a disaster

    This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would require National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funding to focus on improving forecasts of "high impact weather events" like tornadoes and hurricanes "for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy."

    April 3, 2014

  • Hate With Friends, the fun new Facebook tool

    Hating movies, earworms, conventions of grammar, clothing brands, diet fads - you get the twinkle of pleasure without the glob of guilt, or the cold brush of fear. A Coldplay song doesn't know you hate it.

    April 2, 2014

  • dog-sunglasses.jpg Do animals have a sense of humor?

    Right now, in a high-security research lab at Northwestern University's Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics, scientists are tickling rats. Their goal? To develop a pharmaceutical-grade happiness pill. But their efforts might also produce some of the best evidence yet that humor isn't something experienced exclusively by human beings.

    March 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_zuckerberg.jpg The logic of Facebook's multibillion-dollar shopping spree

    Yet again, Facebook has spent a gaudy sum of money to buy a hot startup. This time, it's virtual reality pioneer Oculus VR, at a purchase price of $2 billion. And don't be surprised if Mark Zuckerberg continues on his buying spree.

    March 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140325-AMX-BARISTA251.jpg Coffee's third wave? The Apple to Starbucks' Microsoft

    Do you remember when Starbucks was cool? It opened in Seattle in the 1970s as a local specialty roaster, a trendy alternative to the prevailing generic swill. But the price of conquest is cachet. What was once novel — the warm décor, the gentle music, the faux-Italian lingo — has become banal. Today's coffee snobs would rather snort Sanka than set foot inside a Starbucks

    March 26, 2014 2 Photos

  • Why our brains just cannot let this mystery go

    Why should the story of Flight 370 grip us so? This mystery seems almost designed to arouse some fundamental parts of our brain.

    March 25, 2014

AP Video
Business Marquee
College Sports
Pro Sports
Facebook